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Japanese court awards over £270k in damages to family of woman killed by cyclist

Rider had already been sentenced in criminal case

A Tokyo cyclist has been ordered to pay over a quarter of a million pounds in damages to the family of an elderly woman who died after he rode into her.

The male cyclist, who has not been named in  reports, ran a red light and hit 75-year-old Reiko Azuma on a pedestrian crossing in Ota City, Tokyo in January 2010.

According to Japan Daily Press, the judge ordered the man, now 46, to pay 47 million yen (roughly £275,000) in damages to the victim’s family. The victim’s family expressed their satisfaction with the decision despite getting less than the 100 million yen they sued for.

“Unlike in earlier criminal proceedings, the court gave our case the same treatment as it would a car accident,” said the victim’s son Mitsuhiro Azuma.

“We want this case to make cyclists more aware that bicycles have the potential to become deadly weapons,” he added.

The court heard that the rider was doing 15-20km/h (10-13mph) when he hit Ms Azuma. She died from head injuries in hospital five days later.

The cyclist was subsequently prosecuted for manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for three years.

In the criminal case, Presiding Judge Motoko Miki said that the cyclist caused the crash by  not paying attention to the road, and that Ms Azuma was “in no way at fault.”

The cyclist had claimed that Ms Azuma died from falling out of bed in the hospital, but the judge dismissed that allegation, saying that she incurred no other injuries from the fall except those sustained in the accident.

Tokyo is reported to have seen a huge increase in cycling in recent years, and with that has come greater attention on cyclists who are involved in accidents, especially with the elderly.

The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, which saw hundreds of thousands of commuters stranded as Tokyo’s subway system shut down, inspired many to take to two wheels and escape the crush of the city’s public transport network.

But the increase in cycling has been accompanied by an increase in cyclist-pedestrian accidents. In November prosecutors said they would press charges for gross negligence causing injury where appropriate. A guilty verdict can result in a fine of a million Yen (about £6,000).

Last year the Kobe District Court awarded 95 million Yen in damages against the mother of a schoolboy who hit an elderly woman in 2008.

The judge found that the mother had not “provided insufficient guidance to the child that may have prevented this accident.”

The victim sustained head injuries that left her in a coma. She was still unconscious at the time of the case, five years later. The damages were awarded to help cover her medical bills and care.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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